The Secret Addiction

Attending class hungover, blacking out at every party and vomiting are all obvious signs of a developing drinking problem. What about missing class, anxiety, depression, mood swings, begging parents for money and excessive sports watching? These may just seem like the everyday struggles of a normal college student, but they also are all signs of a silent addiction that is just as harmful as drugs and alcoholism but harder to recognize: a gambling addiction.

    Many young-aged adults experiment with gambling while in college, and it can lead down the same tumultuous path as alcoholism and drug abuse, but it isn’t nearly talked about as much as other  addictions.

    Gambling addiction is not considered a mental disorder, although alcoholism and drug addiction are classified as medical conditions, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. In college, there are many different outlets to help recognize alcohol and drug problems, from campus seminars to outreach programs. But there’s nothing about gambling. There are also many strict policies about consuming alcohol and drugs on campus with hard repercussions that can even lead to expulsion. At Sonoma State University, there is a link to a drug and alcohol resources page with four different campus resources and six local resources filled with information about the signs, symptoms and treatment of different addiction abuse, but there’s no word on gambling addictions.

Sonoma State isn’t the only university that doesn't take gambling seriously. According to National Council on Problem Gambling, only 22 percent of American universities have formal policies on gambling while almost every major university has policies on drug and alcohol use.

    ABC News reported on this issue that has been a problem since the early 2000s at the start of the online poker craze. They looked to Jeff Marotta, a problem-gambling services manager for the Oregon  Human Resources Agency.

"About one college student in 20 has a gambling problem, but it's an issue that's very much under the radar," said Marotta in a statement announcing a campaign to help prevent college gambling, published by ABC News in 2006. "Most colleges seem to view student gambling as a harmless extracurricular activity, yet we know that for a certain percentage of student gamblers it can lead to serious problems."    

    California is home to more than  90 casinos with 23 offering gambling to people of the age of 18 and up.

    Rohnert Park is home to the largest casino in California. Graton Resort and Casino opened its doors two years ago with a clear focus to attract young socialites interested in a night of drinking and gamingg. Graton even holds more gaming tables than the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas. Graton is now nearing the opening of a $175 million, 20- room hotel. With the rise of gambling in the Rohnert Park area and the expansion of Graton attractions, gambling addiction needs to be taken more seriously at Sonoma State.

    Gambling takes place in many shapes and forms other than regular casino-style gaming. The lotto, sports betting and fantasy sports can all be considered gambling and they all begin while in college. According to the National Center for Responsible Gambling, 75 percent of college students have gambled in the past year, and 18 percent gamble on a weekly basis. Casino nights and poker tournaments are popular fundraising events put on by college organizations that introduce students to the gambling world.

     Gambling addiction can be extremely difficult to recognize. The first signs of a gambling addiction can be saving money for a casino trip, betting bigger bets, borrowing money to gamble, reliving past gambling experiences and secret gambling trips. If you or someone you know is suffering from gambling addiction, call 1-800-GAMBLER or visit gamblersanonymous.com.